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What to do with Candida Overgrowth March 3, 2016

Posted by Dr. Adam McLeod, ND in best vancouver naturopath, gut flora, Healing, probiotics.
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Quick survey – do you suffer from most or all of the following?

  • digestive complaints like gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation
  • skin irritation or inflammation
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • sugar cravings
  • mood issues like irritability, anxiety or depression
  • chronic sinus infections
  • recurrent yeast infections

If you answered yes to many of these, there’s a good chance you have a candida overgrowth. 

Your body is a bewilderingly complex arrangement of cells, tissues, organs and systems. But if you look at the estimated numbers, only about half of those cells are actually human – the rest are made up of hundreds of species of micro-organisms, including bacteria and yeast. All these little beings usually live in perfect harmony with us, and each other. But when these critters get out of balance, bad things can happen.One such critter is called Candida albicans. It’s a species of yeast that lives in everyone, and most of the time it doesn’t bother us. It competes for food and habitat with all the other microbes, most of which are species of bacteria. This perfect balance prevents any one species from gaining the upper hand. But one common medication – both a blessing and a curse – can upset this balance and then things can get a bit complicated: antibiotics!

Antibiotics are still the greatest medical breakthrough humans have ever made. But we’re rapidly approaching the day when we’ll have overused them to the point that they’ll be basically useless. But that’s another story.
Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. They are not effective against viral infections. Nor do they affect yeast (for the most part). They are wildly effective in wiping out bacteria by the billions – but when they do this, they leave behind empty habitat (our bodies) to be colonized by whatever happens to be handy, which in our case is often Candida. See where I’m going here?

​As you now know, symptoms of Candida overgrowth are numerous and varied. 
And like I said above, antibiotics play a big role in developing this. But you can get this without antibiotics. A poor diet, one high in refined carbohydrates and alcohol, definitely plays a part. Chronic stress also contributes, causing gut inflammation and poor digestion.
How do you know for sure if candida is the problem? Testing is available – blood or urine can show it; but stool testing is the most definitive. Do you need to test? Not necessarily – if you have many of the symptoms listed above, as well as having a history of repeated antibiotic treatments, it’s pretty likely.

So what do you do?

The most effective treatment is a multi-factorial approach: starving it out with a low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet; actively killing the yeast cells either with natural or pharmaceutical anti-fungal agents; and repopulating the gut with various strains of good bacteria so the yeast (which is always present, remember) can’t get out of control again. At the same time, don’t forget to heal your gut. Yeast overgrowth causes a lot of inflammation, which is what allows the yeast cells to continue to get into the bloodstream, circulate through the body and cause all those systemic symptoms that make life so uncomfortable.
If Candida is making your life miserable, come see us at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic. Any of our experienced naturopathic doctors can help guide you back to a healthy, happy life.
Written by: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore

What You Need to Know About Probiotics September 14, 2015

Posted by Dr. Adam McLeod, ND in gut flora, Naturopathic Medicine, probiotics.
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The term probiotics is fast becoming a buzz word for wellness and health benefits. But what exactly are probiotics and should you be concerned with them? It may be startling to learn that of all the cells in your body, only 10% of them are human.The other 90% are in fact, bacteria. The majority of the bacteria are beneficial, even essential to your health. We are all walking, talking ecosystems. The bacteria live all over our bodies, but the ones we are primarily concerned about in terms of probiotics are those in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically the large intestine. Each of us has a different composition of bacteria making up whats known as our microbiota (gut flora). This composition varies greatly between individuals depending on our diets, lifestyles and environmental factors. Over 160 different species of bacteria call your gut home. The aim of probiotics, put simply, is to deliver and optimize growth of the beneficial bacteria thus inhibiting the growth of bacteria which are not helpful to us.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as ’Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’.

Typically, probiotics come in pill, capsule or sometimes powder forms. The bacteria should be live and are often surrounded in a medium of some kind which they can feed off and survive. It is important to realize that in order for you to attain any of the health benefits from your probiotics they must be “live” when you consume them. Most probiotics with live bacteria will be refrigerated however there are some shelf stable brands on the market. Probiotics which have not been kept in the correct conditions will have reduced efficacy. Some brands over populate their products to allow for loss of some of the bacteria during shipping etc. In this way they ensure that by the time they reach the consumer they have the correct dosage of bacteria. The bacteria in your probiotics must also be viable. Think about it, in order for them to successfully colonize your lower intestine where they are most active and can convey their respective health benefits, they must first pass through the rest of your GI tract. This includes the highly acidic environment of your stomach, amongst other things. It doesn’t matter how many billion bacteria you consume in each tablet if they are all dead before they reach your gut. These are some of the reasons why it is important to choose the best quality probiotics you can and to seek advice from a health professional when choosing them.

What are the benefits of probiotics?
There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of probiotics in a plethora of different fields of health care. The health benefits of probiotics in various different forms have been recognized since antiquity. However, we are really only now beginning to fully grasp and examine the importance of the microbiota to our health. The potential of probiotics as treatment for everyday illnesses all the way to serious disease is becoming increasingly apparent with an ever increasing body of evidence support their use.

Studies have shown probiotics to be extremely useful in treating cases of diarrhea. One study showed a 42% reduction in the incidence of diarrhea brought on by antibiotic treatment. It may sound counterintuitive but probiotics can and often should be used in conjuction with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not always differentiate between which bacteria are harmful pathogens and which one are beneficial for us. They can often indiscriminately kill the good guys too! This is why many people experience diarrhea as a side effect when taking antibiotics. Apart from being unpleasant, diarrhea causes dehydration and electrolyte imbalances which can further impede recovery particularly in weaker or immunocompromised patients. Replacing the lost good guys by using probiotics during a course of antibiotics can help patients to avoid this complication altogether. When taking both simultaneously it is important to separate the doses i.e. take them at different times as this allows the probiotics to reach their best potential.

Probiotics have also been shown to have a role in treating conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. These disorders of the bowel lead to pain, bleeding, cramping, poor digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. They can potentially end up in more serious complications such as bowel obstructions and strictures requiring surgery. A factor common to these disorders is an altered relationship between the body and the gut flora. Resident bacteria in the lumen have been shown to be a factor in the development and persistence of these disorders. The inflammation associated with these diseases is the body attempting to fight off pathogens in the gut. As your immune system can not always differentiate, this affects the good bacteria too. The reasons why the immune system attacks the gut flora in the first place is not well understood. Some theories propose that your body is reacting to changes in the population of the gut flora or changes in the behaviour of the flora and the chemicals they produce. Either way it is clear the the microbiota is intrinsically linked to these disorders. This has prompted scientist to investigate the potential benefits of manipulating the flora with probiotics. Bacteria such as lactobacilli have been shown to have protective immuno-modulating properties which can help alleviate the body’s inflammatory response. Alterations in the permeability of the gut can cause compounds to essentially leak out through the gaps between cells of the small intestine. This in turn leads to inflammation. Bifidobacterium, another probiotic strain, prevents damage to intestinal cells and helps to prevent increased intestinal permeability. There have been positive results from several studies in animals showing an improvement in symptoms of IBS from taking targeted probiotics.

The established ability of certain probiotics to counteract increased intestinal permeability has further reaching potential than just disorders of the bowel. As previously mentioned, the leaking of compounds out of the intestine leads to inflammation. This phenomenon has also been linked to food intolerance, particularly gluten and other inflammatory reactions such as eczema, asthma. Maintaining a healthy intestinal microbiota through probiotic use could help to avoid or alleviate these sensitivities. A recent study with 30 children in Australia used probiotics, namely Lactobacillus Rhamnosus to treat peanut allergy. In a randomised trial they found that about 80% of the children were subsequently able to tolerate peanuts. Other studies using Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis have had positive results in treating infants suffering with atopic eczema. Some scientists hypothesize that the increasing rate of allergies is caused by our reduced exposure to pathogens due to improvements in hygiene. The theory is that the use of probiotics may be a safe alternative for providing bacterial stimulation which is necessary to our bodies. Probiotics have been shown not only to successfully treat allergies in infants but also to reduce the incidence of developing allergies in the first place. Though the mechanism of action is still not fully understood is is thought to be a combination of probiotics’ ability to strengthen the barrier function of intestinal mucosa preventing leakage and the fine tuning of the microbiota. Increasing the population of certain microbes in the gut puts them in direct competition with pathogenic bacteria for food and space and thus helps to reduce the population of harmful pathogens.

Probiotics may also be useful for detoxification. Many of the toxins in the body originate in the GI tract. These include undigested proteins and unhelpful bacteria. The introduction of the correct probiotic strains can help to rid the body of unwanted toxins. Some strain of bacteria can harvest energy from undigestible foods. The healthy flora can also out colonize the pathogens and detoxify the gut in this way.

One of the most exciting potential uses for probiotics is relating to obesity.Research has shown a consistent difference between the gut flora of slim individuals and that of obese individuals. Furthermore, one study in mice, the gut flora of a healthy weight mouse was replaced with those taken from an obese mouse. The healthy weight mice were fed the same diet as before but they became obese. Unfortunately, so far studies have been unsuccessful in doing the reverse- slimming down an obese individual using a slim individual’s gut flora. The research into that continues but what this research does show is a direct link between gut flora and obesity. The gut flora’s potential to contribute to energy harvest is another area of particular interest in relation to obesity. Research in the future may yield a definitive alternative using probiotics to the extreme treatments such as bariatric surgery that are becoming commonly used today.

The potential uses for probiotics are only just beginning the emerge. There is already encouraging research into the link between gut flora and diabetes, cancer and even depression. Further research and refining of their use we may see probiotics revolutionize the way we treat many illnesses. There are some obstacles to take note of when using probiotics. It is important to select appropriate strains. Different bacteria have different functions in the body and selecting the incorrect one may have no beneficial effect or it may exacerbate your symptoms further. Another problem is poorly regulated standardization of probiotics. There is a huge variety of probiotics on the market each with varying levels of efficacy and standards of production. If you have allergies you must exercise caution when selecting a probiotics to ensure it does not contain any of the allergens you are sensitive to. Just as you would with food. Your naturopathic doctor is one of the best resources for information on probiotics. The population of your gut flora is individual and unique to you. As such, you should have an individualized plan for taking care of them. One of our Naturopathic Doctors can help you to choose the correct strain for you based on your individual needs and help you to navigate the vast selection of probiotics on the market to help you find a reputable product that is best for you and your microbial friends.

If you have any questions about probiotics or would like to book an appointment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors you can contact us at 604-235-8068 or by email atinfo@yaletownnaturopathic.com.

What Is SIBO? August 13, 2015

Posted by Dr. Adam McLeod, ND in gut flora, Naturopathic Medicine, probiotics.
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What is SIBO?

how-to-treat-SIBO-vancouver-naturopath-710x400 It’s short for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and recently the numbers of patients coming in with this condition has increased significantly. Let’s break it down.

The first question I hear you asking – but isn’t there supposed to be bacteria in my small intestine? Isn’t that why I’ve been putting half of my health spending account towards probiotics on your recommendation? Short answer – yes, there are trillions of bacterial cells throughout the small and large intestine (fun fact: you have more bacterial cells inside and on the surface of your body than you have human cells). But there are different strains of bacteria in different areas. And the problem arises when the bacteria that’s supposed to stay in the large intestine gets into the small intestine.

The main difference in function between the small and large intestine: the small intestine digests food and absorbs nutrients, and the large intestine balances water and electrolytes through selective reabsorption. One other important feature of the large intestine is production of some B vitamins and vitamin K by some of our friendly resident bacteria.

In more detail, the small intestine receives chyme from the stomach, which is a thick mixture of chewed-up, partially-digested food and stomach acid. The acid is quickly neutralized by a base from the pancreas, allowing the bacteria to go to work. As you travel further down the 7-meter length of the small intestine, the numbers of bacteria increase exponentially as they reproduce to continue the digestive process. Without these beneficial bacteria, you would die of starvation within hours. By the time you reach the large intestine, ideally all the useful nutrients have been absorbed, and there’s mostly only waste materials and water. If food carries on into the large intestine, then you experience trouble in the form of gas. And that brings us back to SIBO.

Remember how we said there are different bacteria between the small and large intestine? If food material gets into the large intestine, the bacteria that live there digest it differently from the small intestinal bacteria – with the socially-awkward byproduct of gas (mostly methane). Now imagine if that bacteria that’s supposed to be confined to the large intestine make the move into the small intestine, with its unlimited supply of food particles. It’s the bacterial equivalent of a keg party with the whole town showing up uninvited.

What are the Symptoms of SIBO?

The hallmark symptom of SIBO is bloating. After eating. After eating anything. This is what can sometimes differentiate it from other causes of bloating. If there are particular food sensitivities, bloating can usually be traced to certain foods, which can then be avoided. If you have a deficiency in a certain digestive enzyme (two of the best-known examples are the enzymes that break down lactose or gluten) that bloating is usually accompanied by other fun symptoms like flatulence and/or diarrhea. But the list of possible symptoms associated with SIBO goes on and on – gastrointestinal upset, skin and joint issues, and even mood changes and nutrient deficiencies.

How do I Test for SIBO?

We use a breath test that measures hydrogen and methane. These are gases that are produced by bacteria (but not humans) and so can be used to estimate bacterial activity in the gut. These gases diffuse into the blood and eventually are excreted via the lungs.

How do I Treat SIBO?

There are two main treatment options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. First – treatment with pharmaceutical antibiotics. The second – treatment with herbal anti-microbial products.

With antibiotics, an advantage is that it only takes a two-week course of treatment. One potential disadvantage (depending on your extended health coverage) is that it’s fairly expensive (between $300-500).

With herbal products, the course of treatment is about twice as long. Typically the herbal supplements should cost less than the antibiotics, but they should be chosen with care and on the recommendation of a health professional familiar with their use and efficacy, as the formulation and potency are key to their effectiveness.

Whether you choose to use either antibiotics or herbals, the remainder of the treatment is the same. First, you need to keep everything moving forward – remember, the original problem is that large intestine bacteria somehow managed to make their way against the flow up into the small intestine. If everything is moving forward properly, this greatly reduces the chances of recurrence.

Second, replace all the essential bacteria that you killed off, using a solid protocol of probiotics. We get wonderful results with the Natren line of probiotics, one of the original and best-researched products available.

To round out the treatment: you’ll need to work on healing the gut lining from any damage done by the invading bacteria; follow a diet specially designed to “feed the person but starve the bacteria”; strengthen the ileo-cecal valve (located between the small and large intestine, designed to prevent bacterial movement upstream); and improve overall digestive health, including production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

If you’ve been experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should probably give us a call and get it checked out – it might be SIBO, or it might be something less complicated. Either way, we can make you feel better, and make eating enjoyable again.

Written By: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore, ND

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